Revealing the Bones

As I walked this morning, I became aware of the bareness of winter branches and the beauty of naked tree limbs dark against the sky.  The questions of winter stirred in me.  This year a new one is emerging:  When I let go of all the embellishments of my life, what is the core that remains?  What constitutes the bare bones of my life? 

I am reflecting on this question in a number of ways.  Part of it is the literal level of the question.  I have felt the impulse to make space lately in my home for something new that is emerging and yet unknown.  Clearing things out has become a physical meditation.  As I move into Sabbath time, my teaching load is reduced as well as my income, and I am needing to be very careful with money.  Taking a sabbatical means more space, but it also means living my life more simply than I already do.  I listen for what I can let go of for now.  I ask myself what is worth the sacrifice for the freedom that comes with the gift of time?  I also listen for the places I am invited into generosity and trust.

There are other ways I am stripping down though, more figurative ways.  I am moving more deeply into my identity as an artist and writer, part of the core of who I am.  I am reflecting on what is most important to me.  Last Saturday one of my fellow Oblates died peacefully in her home with her husband by her side.  I was praying for Mary over the weekend and reflecting again on the ways that death can lead us to ponder those things in life that feel most important, most basic, the bones of our lives.  Sometimes I have moments of grace where I truly feel if I were to die in this moment I have lived my life fully and loved well.  Of course, I hope for many more years of loving this world, but we never know when we will be taken to the place of barest bones, when we will return to dust.

Often the process of release that winter calls us into — the surrender of ego and things and desires — can reveal beneath all the foliage, a nest hidden in the brances.  We suddenly discover in the letting go, a place within that is nurturing the tender young life always unfolding anew.  We journey toward the new birth and sometimes it takes death for us to see it.

Mary was blessed with time to prepare for her death.  She shared a beautiful vision she had with the Oblates that arose out of a labyrinth walk.  She was given the gift of Sister Crow as a companion: “I saw her flying through the rosy dawn, bearing my soul (in the form of a maple seed) to heaven.  I am on my way to becoming a new creation.”  She wrote these words to accompany a mandala she gave each of us a copy of:

Bless Mary in her becoming a new creation.   Bless her family as they grieve deeply her loss and fill with oceans of sorrow. May we all recognize the new creation God is fashioning within us.  In this season of waiting for new birth, we also know the ending of that story — a painful and unjust death — and then another new creation.

What are the bones of your life?  What is most essential to your being?  What is the nest that is hidden in your branches?

-Christine Valters Paintner

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11 Responses

  1. I am seeking bones but sometimes I feel more trapped than finding. I just started a new blog for my poetry – mostly will be posting old ones and working through the book I got from you (Oh!! I got my books – I am so excited to do some work with paper again after the New Year!!) – I haven’t done much writing in a long time – I hope this stirs it up – it is a bone in my life, I think…

  2. Thanks Bette, Clearing and calling are two powerful words. I love the image of the Scent of Lebanon growing in you. Unfortunately today I did not get in a walk, but did spend some time with two good and dear friends I haven’t seen in too many weeks as well as some art-making! (yes, even some stamp carving) :-) More on those in a couple of days, they are still in progress. Tomorrow another walk beckons and I will be sure to share. I still have some other photos from yesterday morning to share as well. I am delighted at your regular postings!

  3. Such wonderful, rich thoughts and questions here. I’ve been thinking about them all day. I think for me right now my bare bones are “clearing” and “calling”. The need to clear within and without….and to listen for my calling. God’s flame is flickering deep inside me, growing each day with the Scent of Lebanon. This morning I walked in nature and took some pictures for my daily waka – it was so nuturing! Mary Sister Crow’s mandala is so divine. Great tree photos! And now I cannot wait to hear what broke loose for you on your walk today!!!

  4. Greetings wonderful women! I am honored by your words. Something broke open in me on my walk and I am delighted to share it. I hope to hear more about what unfolds in each of you as you hold these images close. I will continue to dive deeper! Many blessings, Christine

  5. Christine, Once again you have given words to an inner stirring and searching. I will also sit with the question you shared in your previous post, “What is the way that is being prepared within the wilderness of my life?” Wilderness…the bones, the stripping away of comfort and the familiar, and then trusting the nest lies within. Thank you… Cathleen

  6. I will write more later I hope – did some interesting reading on bones recently – but my day has been wierd – I read this this morning and meant to come back and now I need to go…

  7. Christine,

    I, too, am struck beyond words. I also feel a drawing to ponder, journal, and collage as I consider the bones and nests of my life. Going for a walk right now to see what begins to unfold…

  8. Thank you Trish! I thought of you when I saw the nests, I actually saw three of them in total on my walk and they really moved me. I look forward to hearing how these themes continue to speak to you. Blessings, Christine

  9. Oh, oh, oh, Christine!
    I am moved beyond words here.
    Such stark beauty – in the naked tree, in death, in the maple seed of rebirth, in the nest.

    As you know, these have been recurring themes in my life this autumn. You have offered here another lens to peer into.

    As you sink into sabbatical, I wish for you branches strong and naked to hold your graceful nest.

    Deep bows to you,

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